I DON'T think that any of my adventures with Mr Sherlock Holmes opened quite so abruptly, or so dramatically, as that which I associate with The Three Gables.* I had not seen Holmes for some days, and had no idea of the new channel into which his activities had been directed. He was in a chatty mood that morning, however, and had just settled me into the well-worn low arm-chair on one side of the fire, while he had curled down with his pipe in his mouth upon the opposite chair, when our visitor arrived. If I had said that a mad bull had arrived, it would give a clearer impression of what occurred.
The door had flown open and a huge negro* had burst into the room. He would have been a comic figure if he had not been terrific, for he was dressed in a very loud grey check suit with a flowing salmon-coloured tie. His broad face and flattened nose were thrust forward, as his sullen dark eyes, with a smouldering gleam of malice in them, turned from one of us to the other.
'Which of you genelmen is Masser Holmes?' he asked.
Holmes raised his pipe with a languid smile.
'Oh! it's you, is it?' said our visitor, coming with an unpleasant, stealthy step round the angle of the table. 'See here, Masser Holmes, you keep your hands out of other folks' business. Leave folks to manage their own affairs. Got that, Masser Holmes?'*
'Keep on talking,' said Holmes. 'It's fine.'
'Oh! it's fine, is it?' growled the savage. 'It won't be so damn fine if I have to trim you up a bit. I've handled your kind before now, and they didn't look fine when I was through with them. Look at that, Masser* Holmes!'
He swung a huge knotted lump of a fist under my friend's nose. Holmes examined it closely with an air of great interest.